Entries tagged with “Eddie Prévost”.

AMM at the Old Church

Going through my archive of concert ephemera (see previous post) I found the booklet they handed out at the sole AMM show I was able to attend. I scanned this and put it online (click on the pics to see the original scans) and I have to say it’s a nice addition to my memories of this show.  I sent this short review of the show to the Zorn-List the day after the show:

I saw AMM at the Old Church in Portland OR, Wednesday April 11th.
This was my first time seeing AMM, and I really only have just begun
listening to them (thanks to this list for this introduction!). The
Old Church was a great place, with beautiful stained glass and a
stunning painted pipe organ (alas that never got played with) Only a
few reference lights were on in the church, otherwise it was quite
dark. The acoustics were great and the audience was very respectful.

I found the show to unbelievably hypnotic and entrancing. They played
with layers of sound, and moments of absolute silence. The ability
these guys have to entice these sounds of their instruments was
really unparalleled. I loved how Keith Rowes’s guitar just seems on
the edge of chaos at all times, and he bows and taps and gently
evokes waves of sound out of it. The way he could bow the whammy bar,
while just touching the strings or gently brushing the eBow over
them–incredible Then the radio…often just added white noise, then
the random bits of dialog or music. I thought there was a decent
amount of radio used during the show, more than on most of the
recordings I have heard.

Prevost’s percussion work was really unlike any other I have heard.
He really is adding a lot more sounds and tonalities, and is
completely unconcerned with rhythmic grounding. His gear included a
snare, a huge bass drum laying flat on the floor, a couple of other
drums and a good dozen cymbals and a gong. He also had lots of loose
cymbals or cymbals with handles. He bowed symbols, he played with the
squawks of his chair, he did this fantastic thing where he would
balance a medium sized cymbal on the snare and would bow the
cymbal….incredible. He would take the loose cymbals and he would
set them on the huge bass drum and then play the drum or bow the
cymbals. The bass drum would add extra amplification and
reverberation. This also worked to great effect when he would place
a bunch of his sticks on the bass drum and then play it with mallets.

John Tilbury played a normal (baby? ) grand piano and had a metal bar
that he used to damp the strings. At times he would use it like a
slide while he plucked the strings, or leave it laying one the
strings while he played. He also bowed the strings. He played a lot
of sparse notes and chords. At one point he go up and walked off.
During a quieter moment you realized that he was playing a piano in a
choir room or something next door. This sparse John Cage-esque piano
just coming out of nowhere, that would disappear as the others got
louder was fantastic. The relatively “normal” sounds of the piano had
a wonderful grounding or contrasting effect to the other players.
Which is a stunning occurrence considering how sparse, non-melodic
and nearly aleatoric his playing was.

The show ended with Rowe fading out static/white noise over a period
of about 5min. They played about 1’15” total. The audience managed to
wait out the full fadeout at the end, until he had switched off his
stuff before applauding.

This was one of the best shows I have seen. The music was utterly
captivating, and was entirely engrossing to watch these guys play. If
you closed your eyes though, it was like being in a dream world. I
had driven a long ways to get to this show and was plenty tired, but
listening with my eyes closed, I really had that just before sleep
feel. Sounds were hard to spatially place, and would often drive my
eyes open to try to see just what was making that sound. The way the
three of them played together, totally synched, no solos is so far
beyond most avant shows I have seen.


AMM at the Old Church inside

In the autumn of 1995 AMM engaged in their first tour of Japan, details of which seem to have escaped much documentation on the Internet.  The only two confirmed dates are October 13th at the Nagoya City Art Museum in Nagoya which is the bootleg in question and October 22nd at the Egg Farm in Fukaya. This later concert was released as From a Strange Place on PSF Japan. It is interesting to have these two documents from nine days apart, to compare how AMM is sounding at this point in 1995. Any additional information on the Japan tour would be appreciated.

From a Strange Place begins immediately with piano work from Tilbury and a restless working of the strings on the guitar from Rowe.  Taps and hits of the drums from Prévost interject here and there but are not dominate. He does move through objects signifying the full percussion setup, but unlike the previous. The beginning of this piece is rather helter-skelter with a worrying behavior as a dog at a bone. Sounds come in and stop but aren’t developed for long without a gap or a change. Rowe seems the most persistent, working his strings again and again without manipulating the electronic aspect, but with a wide degree of variance. When it does build into a denser structure it includes Tilbury’s arpeggios and grumbles and percussive string manipulations from Rowe’s guitar along with more vigorous drum work from Prévost. While overall this is a restless piece of music and it varies from silence to aggressive outbursts as a whole it seems less dense then the show from the week prior. There is a great section of a sustained spoken radio grab that Prévost responds to with more aggressive drumming, both rolls on the drums and singled pounded events that demonstrates the effectiveness of more muscular drum work (in contrast to the set under consideration today).  The center of this piece is a long, spacious very tentative feeling section, made of squeaky bowed metal, oscillating but low intensity guitar feedback interspersed with string manipulations and chording from Tilbury whose decay takes far more precedence then the attacks. The weakest part of this show though was a Prévost led assault on the drums, but here (and again in contrast to the boot) Tilbury and Rowe match him in density and volume.  But the gesture, that of a jazz drum solo, pulls you out where pure sound, however loud or ugly does now. But this event was short lived and the ending of this set, culminating with a Kabuki like clapped object amidst far away scrabbles on Rowe’s pickups, softly grinding metal and rumbled chords is among the best in its uncompromising yet stunningly beautiful nature. Here it feels as if all the musicians are finding their way, working through something which I think is characteristic of the best AMM sets.  In that regard this recording is a think a nice example of a “typically great” AMM set if not as transcendent as the absolute top tier pieces.  It also has my favorite of Keith Rowe’s painted covers :)

AMM October 13th 1995
Nagoya City Art Museum, Nagoya Japan

AMM has always been about searching for the sound in the performance.(5)

The recording begins with applause, presumably as the musicians took the stage. It begins quiet, with Prévost bowing some object and then rubbing on the surface of a drum. Apart from maybe some occasional moans from Rowe’s electrics the beginning sounds are all Prévost and move on to include short snare rolls, the occasional taps on a larger drum and at one point the shaking of some object.  Even so it is spacious and tentative with good gaps as Prévost’s stops or switches objects. Tilbury eventually comes with a a very prepared piano sound, chords on strings that have been muted or had objects on them. A few of these and it goes silent again, followed by Prévost stroking a metal object and letting it ring. He seems to have had a kit here as he seems to be playing a kick drum with a pedal whilst scratching the surface of another drum and bowing something – rather active if still a bit subdued for a short burst.  A very quiet, very thin electrical sound come from Rowe and the single piano notes from Tilbury on heavily muted strings. This is really one of the more exploratory openings with severe restraint from Rowe and Tilbury and Prévost almost seeming as if he is playing head down in his own space, not worrying or listening to anyone else, not concerned with sudden flurries of sound widely spaced out.  A near drum solo comes from him, in that scattered jazz style that is all drums, but seems to just skitter over surfaces. Of course being AMM there is no obvious rhythm.  Rowe is now letting a ripping static come from the radio, sometimes resolving into garbled speech, but all at a super minimal volume, just barely present.  And then with a rip of feedback it all explodes, with Prévost pounding the skins and several abrupt big chords from Tilbury. More volume and more active now, it is still quite stilted though Prévost seriously flirts on drum solo territory rolling across all of his drums and even working a cymbal at the end of some of these gestures.  Rowe is more aggressively attacking the strings, but in short bursts.  The spaces between events widens a bit but with no decrease in intensity for a minute or so and then it becomes spacious and soft.

Oscillations on prepared strings from Tilbury, skittery bowed metal from Prévost and a warbling sound from Rowe, perhaps a knife under his guitars strings all of this allowed to run for a bit a kind of sickly stasis. Low end radio added to the mix, plus additional groaning sounds, purer bowed metal and tapped drums from Prévost with almost buried repeated gentle high registered piano chords from Tilbury continue this queasy miasma, that even a few big drum hits from Prévost can’t resolve.  Most of this slowly fades away, leving a dentist drill wine and gentle piano playing, almost music box like from Tilbury. Finally it all fades away.

From a short gap, piano notes, now more mid-register and some of them prepared return joined shortly with brushes on the drums. A quiet electronic grinding whine whirls in and away, followed by gently tapped drums. Mallet work on the drums now, picking up the pace and as Tilbury begins to roll out big arpeggios on the ivories Prévost begins to work the cymbals, back in drum solo mode.  The occasional roar and groan from Rowes electronics are buried under this assault, which even as it drops in intensity does not reveal it any clearer. Short, spaced out events now, squeaks from Rowe’s strings, shorter spaced out drum assaults and a tenacious working of a few piano keys all stops and now a whine, thin and upper mid-range from Rowe dominates the nearly empty soundfield. Prévost begins to rub a drum head, contrasting the higher pitch whine with short, low interjections, Tilbury works the piano strings directly.

Everything fades away leaving just Prévost working a drum head. After a bit of this the sound of Tilbury striking the pianos strings with an object is heard along with  a low, quiet oscillation from Rowe. This continues apace until as it all fades away Prévost returns to gently and then not so gently pounding a floor tom. The brings Tilbury back to the keys, restless working a few bass notes. An uneasy tone come in, almost more felt then heard, just at the threshold of audibility amongst the other sounds. When it goes it away its absence is more obvious then its presence.  As Tilbury rolls chords Rowe returns now with a more persistent buzz, restless and more at a volume with the others. Things become wobbly: the bobbing sound of a spring or utensil on strings, Prévost drumming arrhythmically, fragments of chords from the piano. This fades out, almost into a false AMM style ending, with Tilbury’s chords getting quieter and quieter, Rowe’s rumbles being turned down, and very soft bowed metal.

But the bowing of the metal picks up a bit in intensity and the piano chording is still quiet, widely spaced but persistent. Tilbury now playing quiet fragments of little melody’s and Prévost adds the odd strike of the drum to his bowing.  Background roars and amplifier hums from Rowe come in and out, very widely spaced and then a grinding sound. Things keep pausing, as they seem to struggle to bring it back up. Now its that hurky-jerky style that is so oft driven by Prévost – start/stop little rolls on drums, hitting of other objects, short gestures. Rowe, as also is pretty common, with turn up a guttural roar and just as quickly cut it off sometimes seeming to work these sounds in parallel with Prévost’s staccato style. Vigorous rubbing of the guitar strings now and definitely the most aggressive from Rowe as Prévost now vigorously works the skins in true drum solo mode. This section played blind for most people would just sound like a jazz drum solo, not very AMM like at all. Prévost eventually backs it out, fading away on a long roll, Tilbury and Rowe now silent. A very quiet sound, perhaps a rubbing on Rowe’s strings, or a metal object of Prévosts is all that remains.

An electronic buzz comes up, a broken chord. Steady bowing now, quiet and thin. Rowe’s background hum. The last 8-10 minutes of this piece are beautiful – very spare with low end rumbles coming in and out, Tilbury putting in these deep chords that seem to come from the very depths and lots of space and silence. Out of this a little Feldman like broken chord, or a single stroke on the metal edge of a drum, or the the buzz of Rowe’s electronics. Very, very nice ending to what overall is a pretty mixed set.

This set is one of those that rather defies the ethereal floating nature so oft ascribed to AMM in the 90s.  Taken along with From a Strange Place one can see that this is fairly typical for AMM at this point. The trio in fact constantly worked with eruptions of volume and density even in this configuration. The sounds are just a lot more recognizable, usually being piano chords or big drum assaults then the more pure noises they’d have used in the 60s.  While I enjoy the roller-coaster nature of this period of AMM, I find that whenever Prévost has a full kit there is often a bit too gestural drumwork for my taste. When it becomes like a typical jazz drum solo, my interest wanes a bit.  Interestingly the other members tend to just let these events play out,  laying out (as it were) until space opens up again. I do feel that I should note that it is quite possible that Rowe was lost in the mix as I’m not sure what the sourcing on this one is.  However being pretty familiar with AMM boots at this point I do listen for his playing as opposed to its relative volume and it clearly was not present at many points.  Tilbury was pretty audible when he chose to be and I can more confidently assert his more withdrawn performance.  As always when the music seems the most ego free it was immediately familiar as AMMMusic and as powerful as ever.  As the decade would wear on it would seem that Prévost would pare down his tools and this I think would lead to the more austere final phase of the trio AMM.

1) AMM From a Strange Place (PSF Japan) 1996
2) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995
3) The AMM page at the European Free Improvisation Home
4) Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
5) Keith Rowe Interview, Paris Transatlantic, Jan. 2001

Supeersession album coverThe history of AMM in the period between the duo of Keith Rowe and Eddie Prévost and trio of Keith Rowe, John Tilbury, Eddie Prévost is an interesting and little understood period. One that I think I’m not going to be able to shed much light upon beyond supposition. AMM fragmented into the duos of Rowe/Cardew and Prévost/Gare over ideological differences in the early 70s.  Rowe and Cardew went on to their revolutionary songs while Gare and Prévost became a free jazz duo under the AMM name. That much is fairly clear. Also it is pretty well know that there was an attempt to revive the Rowe/Cardew/Prévost/Gare quartet in the late 70s. Gare of course made his oft quoted statement about not being able to return to AMMMusic after the freedom of the duo. Cardew was then tragically killed (murdered?) bringing to a close that era of AMM.

What happened next was the duo of Keith Rowe and Eddie Prévost of which we discussed in the previous post. However it seems that pretty much all during that period there was various attempts to put together a larger group. Rowe has always stated that for him AMM was meant to be a larger group:

“If it’s two elements, it’s not AMM. There have been versions of AMM with only two people, but I don’t consider that as AMM. […] About that time we did do duo gigs, yes. But we always thought there should be three elements. In AMM philosophy three is four: the three players plus the group itself makes four. It’s like the Chinese story of the man drinking a glass of wine in moonlight whose shadow becomes the third member of the company. AMM’s a quartet with an invisible member. ” -Keith Rowe(1)

In the late 70s/early 80s there seemed to be be an almost “auditioning” process of various people for AMM, there is a known recording out there that I have yet to be able to find of  Keith Rowe/Evan Parker/Eddie Prévost in 1979 and then there is this quartet of Evan Parker/Keith Rowe/Barry Guy/Eddie Prévost in 1980. It seems they especially flirted with Evan Parker as he was involved in a number of shows from the aforementioned 1979 one up to at least late 1984.  This group, the quartet of Rowe, Parker, Prévost and Guy would release an album recorded in London in September 1984 under the name of Supersession.

Keith Rowe/Eddie Prévost/Barry Guy/Evan Parker
1980, BBC Studio, London

Begins very tentative, insect music territory. Scrabbly guitar sounds, short bass arpeggios, mild bleats and skronks from the sax and fits and starts of drumming. This picks up pretty fast and within a couple of minutes the sound is fairly continuous even if each individual contribution is not.  He seems to use this fast, staccato strumming to create a kind of blur of popping sounds. A real different sound for this type of free improv and interesting how he kind of sticks with it throughout.  He varies this with shorter, spacious, quieter segments but with the same high thin tone.  In this piece after things build up to pretty dense playing from the bass and drums as Rowe does the fast scrabbling sound he then begins this more spacious playing and suddenly everyone backs off. Good long section without Parkers horn and when he brings it in it is with these short constipated releases of air. Prévost picks up the drumming heading into a quite free jazz vibe as if he was in a duo with late 60s Coltrane. Rowe pauses for a bit at this point and Parker heads toward pretty much continuous playing in familiar Parker territory.  Guy’s bass work is quite straight ahead most of the time at at this dense interval he is pretty much just in the pocket. Keith comes back in with serious vamping adding in a real dense rather fuzzed guitar wash. At this point 8 minutes or so into this piece this could be any free 70s improv ensemble.

They back down from this energy (even the ebb and flow of this is akin to the free jazz roller coaster style) with some rather nice gritty bowing from Guy. Parker plays very short, tonal phrases along with this for a bit of a bass and sax duo. A bit of metallic guitar from Rowe as if stroking muted strings above the pickup. This again inspires an increase in energy and his strumming becomes faster and faster to which Parker responds in kind. It breaks down pretty fast and becomes a bit more open but then Prévost begins wailing on the skins in an all out drum freakout. This of course inspires those melodic runs from Parker, bass fills from Guy and Rowe adds in a a heavily fuzzed almost hard rock guitar. Rowe is almost always at a lower volume then the others and while his playing is fairly straight it is sometimes at odds with the other three. In many ways this is kind of a collision of rock and free improv with elements of both used as materials for this improv.

Again things are quickly brought to a much lower level of energy with Prévost still working the skins, but gently and Rowe down to his slower scrabble instead of the frantic one and Parker laying out.  But just as quickly the energy is built right back up, with dense bass work and what sounds like soprano sax from Parker, played a frantic speed.  To which Rowe responds with a rocking guitar line. It is this constant high to low to high energy transitions that is the most EFI like in this, with the sounds often coming from the rock work. This time when the level is brought down, Guy returns to bowing his bass and Rowe goes on a total analog delay freakout. Layers of thin guitar work ping-pong across the stereo field as he works his delay and Parker plays short little squeals on the (probably) soprano sax. Staccato drumming on the floor tom from Prévost as Rowe moves into odd little cascades of sounds almost like bottles being rolled upon each other. Things open up pretty well even as Guy lays in a guttural drone via his bow. Rowe and Parker stick with fragmented squeals and Prévost lays out. Mirroring the beginning of the piece things get a bit insect music like in the last minutes and slowly coalesce into a denser structure but rather surprisingly concluding before really achieving liftoff.

The playing of Rowe and Prévost on this track is very much in the vein of the playing on RadioActivity and the AMM III album. The use of rock textures from Rowe and free jazz drumming from Prévost run all through this.  While Parker and Guy at times slip sounds in that wouldn’t be out of place in an AMM date from the late 60s for the most part they don’t stray from what they would be doing in their trio with Lytton. Its interesting that the trio of Rowe, Prévost and Guy could be almost a rock power trio (like Cream say), while the trio of Prévost, Parker and Guy sound could just be Prévost filling in for Lytton the Evan Parker trio.  They oscillate between these two poles which perhaps aren’t all that far apart.

“The group that AMM most closely resembles, though they sound utterly unalike and their musics seem to take shape on different principles, is the trio of Evan Parker, Barry Guy, and Paul Lytton, whose playing relationship is almost as long as AMM’s and who share the same devotion to collective improvisation. When AMM was a tenor/drums duo in the 70s, Gare and Prévost frequently co-promoted concerts with the duo of Parker and Lytton, and there’s an extraordinary quartet recording from 1984, called Supersession (Matchless MRCD17), with a quartet of Guy, Parker, Prévost and Rowe.” -Stuart Broomer(3)

The above quote from Broomer I think gives us the clue as to just what this recording is. AMM and the Evan Parker trio played at various shows together, and knowing how those went probably had to do some combined playing together. It was from an unknown date in 1980 at the BBC at a
time when AMM III was playing shows by itself and with various people.  And supposedly at this point Tilbury had already been asked to join the group, though the first official trio AMM set was not until 1982. If AMM III and the Evan Parker Trio were doing intermingled shows at this time perhaps when the opportunity to do a BBC date came up it was suggested that they all play. Perhaps it was the Evan Parker trio that was asked to do the the BBC session and Lytton was unavailable that day so Parker asked Rowe and Prévost to play with them. Impossible to say without of course asking one of the principles. So I think this best way to think of this would be as a one off with the AMM duo, Parker and Guy. In 1984 when they played the show that was  released as Supersession they had already been performing as the trio AMM for several years and had released the studio album Generative Themes. So when releasing the album you could see the need to create a new identity for the group.

It is worth noting that on the actual Supersession disc the rock elements are nowhere near as dominant. Overall it feels more AMM like, especially what you hear on Generative Themes. This of course makes sense as the trio AMM had been playing enough for them to have settled more into playing AMMMusic. At the time of this recording, Rowe and Prévost had primarily been playing in rock and free improv styles for quite a few years. It is not surprising that those influences would filter into AMM III and just be reinforced when added straight up free improv players like Parker and Guy. So really this recording is another fleeting moment in time another short lived era in the history of AMM.


1) Keith Rowe interview by Dan Warburton at Paris Transatlantic
Supersession liner notes by Eddie Prévost,1988 (Matchless Recordings)
3)  Notes on AMM: Entering and Leaving History Stuart Broomer, CODA Magazine no. 290. 2000
4) Meta Machine Music, Rob Young, The Wire #132 (February 1995)
5) Edwin Prévost, No Sound is Innocent, Copula, 1995